It is common to experienceculture shock when you live in another country for an extended period. Culture shock is defined as the feeling of disorientation, insecurity and anxiety that a person can feel in unfamiliar environments. The values, behaviour and social customs that we normally take for granted may no longer serve us in our new home. To adapt to a foreign culture and effectively manage the cultural shock, one must take into consideration:
- Maintain an open mind. Not perceive anything as “bad” or “negative”. No judge will allow you to be an objective observer and facilitate the process of multicultural understanding. Also, if you go to a country you do not know at all, does a little research. As you learn about the country you’re going, you need to keep an open mind and perhaps you find the reason of something you did not understand.
- Exert yourself to learn the local language. This increases your communication skills and helps you to integrate with the local community. It also demonstrates your interest in the country.
- Familiar with social behaviour in a new environment. Do not assume the behaviour or interpreters from your own point of view or “filter” cultural. The behaviour is not information. For example, Americans often use the phrase “How are you?” To say “Hello” or “I’m feeling your presence as you go through the corridor.” An alien may wonder why Americans do not respond to this question in detail. For this reason they may interpret this behaviour to go before anyone has a chance to respond as “indifferent”, “superficial” or even “rude”. An American knows that it is not and probably will not be offended if a person takes the time to answer your question. Remember: When in doubt, find out!
- Do not be carried away by appearances only because you’re more familiar with the culture and that you have some knowledge. Even if you become more skilful on the rituals, customs and protocol in your new environment, be careful not to attribute an explanation or reasoning to what we now think you know. Little knowledge can be misleading. The psychologist Geert Hofstede wrote that ‘culture’ is like an onion can be peeled *, layer by layer, to reveal the contents. It takes time to really get to understand a culture in its social and historical context.
- Ensure you know the task of meeting new people in your ambient. Make questions respectfully, read the newspaper, and attend festivals and different events.
- Reaches a sense of stability in your life. Establishing a routine will give you a sense of security.
- More importantly, keep a sense of humour! Do not be so hard on yourself if you make a cultural mistake or you know not to do in a social situation. Laugh at yourself and others laugh with you. Most people admire your tenacity and effort to understand their habits, especially if you lack judgment and cultural comparisons that subtly and perhaps unconsciously carry an air of superiority.